Singapore designer eggs with cordyceps

Designer eggs that can boost your health
Locally-made cordycepin egg has 30% less cholesterol
Chen Huifen, Business Times 11 Feb 08

QUALITIES of the rare Chinese herb cordyceps sinensis may now be found in made-in-Singapore eggs, thanks to a new collaboration between a scientist and a farmer.

Homegrown biotech firm AP Nutripharm has partnered local egg producer Chew's Agriculture to come up with a feed for chickens that will give rise to 'designer eggs' containing cordycepin. The substance is a key component in cordyceps sinensis, which is known to contain bio-active compounds that support healthy lung and kidney function, and to have anti-cancer, anti-bacteria and anti-inflammatory properties.

'Initially, our idea was to come up with an alternative chicken feed additive for farmers, who are facing higher feed costs as demand for corn and other raw materials have gone up,' said Nutripharm managing director Mark Xu. 'But the farmers were looking to create eggs with more nutritional value. So we tried over two years and got lucky.'

Started in 2002, Nutripharm had devised a way to cultivate cordyceps sinensis on a large scale, with the aim of meeting the demand for the product. The company owns a patent-approved technology that can cultivate the cordycep sinensis in just 9.5 days - compared with a year if left to nature. Its manufacturing facility in Science Park can produce 1.2 tonnes of the fungus a year. Currently, the ingredients are being used to make cordyceps sinensis supplements for Nature Farm and its own house-brand Nu-V. Recently, it started supplying the ingredient to Chew's Agriculture for use as an additive in chicken feed.

The partners spent two years getting the ratio right for the feed. 'We've had to balance the cost of the eggs, with the nutritional value,' Chew's Agriculture managing director Chew Eng Hoe explained. 'If you add too much of the ingredient, you may get plenty of the cordycepin in the final egg product, but it will be too expensive for the consumer.'

Chew's Agriculture production manager Tan Chee Nam revealed that the cost per egg came up to $9.50 in the first trial. The right combination was only achieved last year, after which the farm decided to dedicate one flock of hens to the new feed for the production of cordycepin eggs.

The cordycepin level in the eggs was verified by the School of Chemical and Life Science laboratory at Singapore Polytechnic. For every 100 grams, there are about 76 milligrams of cordycepin. The cordycepin eggs, which have 30 per cent less cholesterol than normal ones, were introduced in supermarkets last month. At 65 cents an egg, sales have been slow to date but Mr Chew said this was expected for a new product.

Having succeeded with eggs, Nutripharm is now exploring the possibility of using cordyceps sinensis to reduce the feed conversion ratio for meat. In the wake of rising commodity prices, Dr Xu wants to help farmers cut costs by reducing the amount of feed required to produce each kilogramme of meat. There are also plans to manufacture cordycep sinensis soup satchets and energy-boosting drinks.

'In the area of cosmetics, we find that our cordyceps live cells may whiten skin dramatically,' he said. 'We are still testing to confirm the results.'

Nutripharm, formerly known as Auric Pacific Nutritech, is majority owned by DPA Pte Ltd, an investment vehicle of several ex-bankers. Auric Pacific Group has a substantial interest in the company through APG Foods Pte Ltd. Nutripharm expects to be profitable in FY2009.